(Do not try to use these words and expect your dog to do the behavior (in all circumstances) until they have been taught the cue and understand it completely.)

Here are some of the vocabulary cues along with definitions I use for my dogs in training:


Top 11 Basic Training Cues:

Marker Word – I say “Yes” or “Good” or click of clicker: This means you did the correct behavior and I’m going to give you a reward. You can stop doing the behavior now and get your reward. (Sometimes you can use “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” but I like to use a shorter word that I can say quickly. Then I use “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” as praise instead of the Marker Word.)

Your Dog’s Name: give me your attention, stop what you’re doing and look at me (does not necessary mean come to me)

Sit: put your butt on the floor

Down: lie flat, butt and elbows on the floor

Come: get back to me – now

A Release Word – “OK” or “Free” or “Release”: means you have permission to stop doing what I previously asked you to do. Note that the Marker Word (“Yes”) is also a mini release word. Once you have said this, your dog is free to stop doing the behavior and get the reward.

Wait (at the door): don’t go out the door until I release you using Release Word (say “OK”), if I walk out the door and I don’t say “OK”, i.e. you don’t follow me, then you can leave.

Wait (on a walk): pause, no forward motion (sniffing, moving sideways, or backwards is ok), until I release you using Release Word (say “OK”) then continue walking.

Stay: stay in the position you are currently in, no movement at all until I release you using Release Word (say “OK”). If I walk out of your sight, you still need to stay there until I release you. (This is the main difference between “Wait” and “Stay”. For “Stay” the dog must not move even when you are out of sight, until released.)

Go Outside: go out the door to the yard or outside of the house

Go Potty: go pee

Hurry Up: go poop

More Advanced, Additional Top 6:

Leave It (something on ground/floor): don’t put it in your mouth, turn away from whatever and look back at me

Leave It (see a cat, squirrel, or other dog that I don’t want you to engage with): turn away from whatever and look back at me

Drop It: spit out whatever is in your mouth

Find It: look for something on the ground/floor

Watch Me: Look at my face

Touch: touch the palm of my hand with your nose

Say Hi: greet this person by sitting and allowing them to pet you (do not jump on them)

Additional (Optional but Nice to Have):

C’m Here: come back in my direction (less urgent than “come”)

Paw: put your paw in my hand
Bring: pick up the toy and bring it to me
Get It: run to your toy

Take It: take what’s in my hand and put in your mouth

Stretch: play bow – front end lower than back end
Over: roll over
Chill: lie on your side

These are the most common cues that I use with my clients and their dogs. Each cue has a specific meaning in a specific context. (I use the same word “Wait” at the door and on the walk. But they are different contexts and have distinct meanings in each context.) I try to use words that don’t sound like each other to decrease the possibility of confusion. I say “stretch” instead of saying “bow” as “bow” sounds too much like “down”.

If you are training your dog, it’s important to take time and figure out what you want each cue to mean and stick to it. If the definition of your cues are sloppy, the behavior will be sloppy too. There is no right or wrong name of cue or definition. It’s up to you to determine the cue and meaning.

If I am training your dog, it’s important that you use the specific cue in the specific context and reinforce the correct behavior. It’s up to you to reinforce the correct behavior otherwise the behavior will deteriorate into what you are reinforcing. Or the behavior will be sloppy or your dog will stop performing the behavior all together if you are not reinforcing it.

For example:
“COME” – What does that mean to you? Run in my general direction? Run straight to me immediately? Take your time but eventually come back to me? Return to me and sit in front? Leave what you are doing and just move away from it but you don’t have to be in front of me? You need to be within touching distance?

You determine the definition, but it’s essential that the expectation is the same every time you use the cue. If sometimes you expect the dog to arrive in front of you in a sit position and the next time you simply want to move him away from something – it’s confusing. Use a different cue for different behavior, or be consistent in the use of the cue.

That is why I have 2 different cues for what is ultimately the same behavior. When I say “come” it means drop what you are doing and return to me immediately. I use “c’m here” when I want my dog to return to me but he can take his time. It’s a more casual cue.

If you want your dog to understand the meaning of the words you choose, you must determine their definitions and teach them clearly and cleanly. That’s the part that I do for you. Then it’s up to you to be consistent.

Understand that it will take time and repetition before they truly understand and can apply them in any situation (especially in public with distractions).

I think most people are just so eager for their dog to respond to cues that they begin using them far too early resulting in spotty success. Or they have had dogs in the past that knew these cues and they forget that they still need to teach the dog the cues before they will understand and do them.

I also use hand signals for some of these cues. But that’s a whole other article.